Nua, an India-based female wellness startup, has raised US$4 million in a series A fundraising led by venture capital firm Lightbox.Existing investor Kae Capital also joined the round.Nua will make investments in technology and data as well as expand its product offerings.It creates products and services focused on women’s health and well-being.Currently, Nua makes sanitary pads and sells them online.The funding also marks Lightbox’s first investment from its US$200 million third fund.
Grab announced today that it will open its internally developed fraud-prevention technology to third parties, enabling its strategic partners and others to combat online fraud.Named Grab Defense, the suite of tools and APIs is built around the app’s treasure trove of data and its experience in tackling ride-hailing fraud.GPS faking, phantom bookings, and gaming of incentives are among the fraudulent schemes that have plagued Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing industry of late.A recent study by Spire Consulting found that as much as 5 percent of ride requests made via the Grab app in Indonesia are fraudulent.However, the company told Tech in Asia it has got that figure down to under 1 percent.Spire found that, for Grab’s archrival Go-Jek, the fraudulent hail rate is up to 30 percent.
Kenya’s Safaricom secures deal to use M-Pesa payments on AliExpress.com – ReutersWhat happened: Kenyan mobile network operator Safaricom has secured a deal with Alibaba that will allow shoppers in Kenya to use its mobile payment service, M-Pesa, for shopping on AliExpress, an e-commerce platform run by Alibaba.Under the deal, Alibaba’s payment arm, Ant Financial, will soon offer M-Pesa as one of the payment options with transactions denominated in the local currency, which will allow shoppers to buy goods on AliExpress even without a credit card.“The move especially targets microtraders in the country who source goods and other supplies from manufacturers in China,” Safaricom said in a statement.Why it’s important: Safaricom’s partnership with Alibaba is part of the move to expand its payment service, also its most profitable product, into global markets.Big e-commerce companies around the world are tapping into lucrative opportunities in Kenya, which has undergone a mobile commerce revolution.
Caffe Pioneer & AI Infrastructure Director Leaves Facebook – SyncedWhat happened: Facebook AI Infrastructure Director Jia Yangqing left the company earlier this month to join an Alibaba research affiliate in Silicon Valley as a vice president of engineering.A person familiar with the matter told China-based AI media entity, Synced, about Jia’s departure, which he later confirmed himself via an update to his LinkedIn account.Why it’s important: E-commerce giant Alibaba is looking to enhance its AI fundamental capabilities such as deep learning for its enterprise-focused expansion, and Jia is well-regarded for his key contributions in this field.The AI engineer joined Facebook in 2016 and led teams of AI researchers and engineers in constructing a large-scale platform supporting different Facebook products including ads, news feed, and search ranking.Jia also created Caffe, a popular open-source deep-learning framework, while earning his doctorate at U.C.
Chinese location-based social app and live-streaming platform Momo reported solid revenue gains in 2018 as monetization efforts paid off.Momo released its fourth quarter and 2018 full year financial results on Tuesday with full-year net revenue of RMB 13.4 billion ($1.9 billion), up 51% from 2017 as monetization gained traction, primarily for livestreaming and value-added services (VAS) including membership subscriptions and its virtual gift business.Fourth quarter earnings per American depository share (ADS) at $0.59 easily surpassed analyst estimates of $0.52 and earnings from the same period a year ago of $0.52.Revenues from livestreaming were RMB 2.9 billion ($430.40 million) in the fourth quarter, up 36% from the same period in 2017.VAS brought in revenues of RMB 722.4 million ($105.1 million) in the fourth quarter, an increase of 272% compared with the same period in 2017.Momo burned more cash in 2018 than the year prior as intensifying competition forces players to ramp up user acquisition costs and sweeten incentives for its talent.
Casualties of trade war: Chinese in US denied licences to work with sensitive technologies – South China Morning PostWhat happened: Chinese nationals working tech jobs in the US with national security implications are increasingly being denied government licenses to do so, SCMP reports.“Deemed export” licenses allow non-US nationals access to otherwise classified technology, more than half are generally approved.But as the US-China trade war plods on and bi-partisan concerns linger about China as a competitor in technological dominance, Chinese nationals are seeing their licenses expire without renewal or are being denied licenses altogether.The trend is likely to continue, Doug Jacobson, a lawyer who specializes in the licenses, told SCMP.Why it’s important: As the trade war continues, concern deepens in Washington D.C. about the presence of Chinese nationals close to home.
Go-Jek’s drivers in Singapore will enjoy discounts of at least 20 percent when refueling their cars thanks to the company’s latest strategic partnership with Esso and its existing alliance with DBS.The tie-up means that Go-Jek drivers will get upfront discounts of 20 percent when they buy from petrol at Esso, which runs the country’s largest network of gas stations.There’ll be additional rebates on petrol purchases of up to 12 percent for the most active drivers.Those that pay for their fuel using a DBS or POSB debit card will also get rebates.The discount fuel scheme begins on April 1, with details of the DBS rebates to be announced at a later date.Go-Jek has steadily been adding benefits for its Singapore drivers in recent weeks, having recently announced partnerships with local startups Gigacover and Doctor Anywhere to provide earnings protection insurance and preferential rates on medical services, respectively.
India-based hospitality firm Oyo announced a commitment of 14 billion Indian rupees (US$200 million) for its India and South Asia businesses.Oyo reportedly plans to double down on its regional expansion efforts, improve customer experience, and increase property owner success.It also unveiled a new property brand in its portfolio – dubbed Collection O – targeting young and millennials travelers.Collection O will feature budget to mid-segment hotel chain brands.Currency converted from Indian rupees.
Singapore-based standardized accommodation startup RedDoorz is raising a series B round of up to US$50 million, which will be led by Chinese VC firm Qiming Venture Partners, a source familiar with the deal tells Tech in Asia.If the target amount is raised, the deal will bring the hotel chain’s total amount of funding to roughly US$70 million.The funds will be used to enhance RedDoorz’s technology and brand, the person says.Part of this is increasing its tech product team and working on “deeper features” like its AI-based pricing algorithm.According to the source, while RedDoorz is already working on their technology and branding, it is still “a long way to go” before perfecting them.Part of the money will also be used for expansion in the future, the source notes.
The Wedding Brigade, an India-based wedding portal, has raised over US$1 million in a pre-series A extension round led by Japan-based AET fund and Blume Ventures.Allana Group and angel investors also participated.The startup will use the additional funding to scale its latest venture: creating and operating wedding banquet spaces.It will also continue to invest in its existing content and ecommerce businesses.Founded in 2014, The Wedding Brigade aims to help customers create “stress-free weddings.” Its platform offers a range of curated services, such as event venues, makeup artists, and photographers.Before this round, the company had landed US$1 million in a fundraise led by Blume Ventures, with Czar Capital, Mountain Pine Capital, Lets Venture investors, and the Keiretsu Forum joining in.
Baidu, China’s largest internet search services provider, has jointly launched with Chery Automobile its first production-model electric vehicle built with an AI operating system.The move escalates efforts by domestic car manufacturers to embed more advanced technologies into their products.A new version of the Exeed TX, an electric sports utility vehicle that Chery first sold in China last year, will have Baidu’s DuerOS, an AI platform that supports face-scanning payment, augmented reality (AR) navigation and remote control of home appliances among other features, according to a WeChat post by Baidu on March 11.The DuerOS would provide a more customized user experience, including specific driver greetings as well as automatic adjustments to seats and lighting, the company said.The smart Exeed TX, part of Chery’s initiative to attract younger consumers, is expected to hit the domestic market next month, according to the state-owned carmaker.Chery did not immediately respond to text inquiries about the potential opportunity to export DuerOS-equipped Exceed TX units.
Operating losses at Chinese food delivery and services platform Meituan-Dianping surged 57% year-on-year to RMB 3.7 billion (around $557 million) in the fourth quarter of last year, amid rising costs for its core food delivery business and as a foray into shared bikes via Mobike took its toll.While the company’s overall revenues almost doubled compared with the same period in 2017, food delivery revenue slumped in the fourth quarter, declining 1.5% quarter-on-quarter due to broader macroeconomic pressure and growing competition, according to the financial statement from Meituan.The cost of food delivery in the December quarter increased 53.6% year-on-year to RMB 9.5 billion, which management attributed to the mounting salary costs for its delivery fleet.In February, Meituan delivery drivers went on strike in several major cities across the country, with Chinese media reporting that conflicts become violent at times.The company denied any link between narrowing profits and striking delivery staff.Tencent-backed Meituan expanded its services in 2018 to include ride-hailing and bike-sharing, boosting annual active users 29.3% to more than 400 million in 2018 compared with 2017.
What happened: Bytedance-owned social media app Duoshan can no longer be found on Tencent’s Android app store YingYongBao, media outlet ifeng reported on Tuesday.Bytedance said the app’s disappearance is the result of Tencent ramping up competitive blocking efforts, according to the report.As of writing, other Bytedances apps including Douyin, Huoshan Video and Watermelon Video can still be found on the store.A Tencent spokesperson declined to comment.Why it’s important: Duoshan’s disappearance from YingYongBao is the latest development in the fierce rivalry between Bytedance and Tencent.Tencent blocked Duoshan’s download link from WeChat in January, and then stopped users from registering Douyin accounts with their WeChat accounts.
Southeast Asia ecommerce platform Lazada is pulling out all the stops for its seventh birthday celebration.Slated for March 26, Lazada’s invited guests and fans can also personally attend the concert in Jakarta, Indonesia.However, the shoppertainment concept isn’t something new, especially for Lazada’s controlling stakeholder, Alibaba.The Chinese tech titan livestreamed a variety show on its Tmall shopping app in conjunction with Single’s Day in 2016.And it didn’t stop there.Alibaba has since taken its shoppertainment efforts to a new level with its “See Now, Buy Now” fashion shows.
A number of bus drivers in Shanghai can now count on alerts from an artificial intelligence (AI)-based smart assistant during long driving shifts.Chinese AI unicorn SenseTime announced on Monday that it is partnering with bus operator E-DRIVE on driver monitoring solutions, along with passenger payment system using facial scans.To date, 38 shuttle bus lines in the Jiading and Putuo districts of Shanghai have been upgraded, with plans to roll SenseTime’s in-vehicle face recognition technology out to all E-DRIVE vehicles along more than 100 bus routes, according to a company announcement.The upgrades are low cost, a company spokesman told TechNode, as only an additional infrared camera is required.Driver fatigue or distraction will be detected in the real time, after which a voice alert will prompt drivers to pay attention.The China-based AI firm says it collects 200 hours of driving data totaling 10 gigabytes per day.
Koolearn, an online education company under New Oriental, is planning to file for a Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) in April, said Yu Minghong, founder and president of New Oriental, in an interview (in Chinese).Koolearn will launch its IPO roadshow this Thursday, determine the price of its shares on March 20, and start trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on March 27, according to a separate report (in Chinese).Chinese media reported that the company was seeking to raise $200 million to $300 million in November, when Koolearn passed the listings hearing.Founded in 2005, Koolearn.com is a subsidiary of New Oriental, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).Koolearn offers college tutoring, K-12 education, and online preschool tutoring programs.The company listed on the over-the-counter New Third Board (National Equities Exchange and Quotation) in Beijing in late 2016, but delisted in February 2017 due to “needs for business development and strategic plan adjustment,” the company said.
Soon, even tuning into livestreamed videos might require the same.The idea isn’t coming from parents worried about how their kids are spending time.The proposal was brought up during China’s annual parliamentary meetings last week by the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF) – a Communist Party organization promoting the study of Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and all that fun stuff young people like.The organization called for a complete ban on minors hosting livestreams, as well as using big data or random checks to track them down.After years of heavy criticism, the system was set up to prevent minors from spending too much time on the game – which at one point was described by Chinese state media as “poison.” (By the way, kids in China are already coming up with hilariously unsuccessful tactics to cheat the system.)Livestreaming is another hugely popular activity among kids in China – around 45 percent of the country’s livestreaming users are school children, according to numbers compiled by the Communist Youth League Central Committee.
Construction of China’s next-generation 5G mobile network could be pushed out due to technical constraints and signs of a more “rational view” by the government, according to analysts at US investment bank Jefferies.Analysts cut forecasts for China’s overall 5G capital expenditures (capex) by 8% or RMB 57 billion ($8.49) in 2020 to 2022 and pushed expectations for peak capex out to 2023 from 2021 to 2022 in a recent report that re-evaluates 5G timing and rollout following a critical development in December.The government allocated radio frequency spectrum to China’s three telecommunications companies, enabling final trials before wide commercial implementation in 2020, spurring a round of financial re-assessments.Other factors influencing the forecasts changes include recent 2G re-farming indicators and signs of moderating mobile data price pressure from the government.While the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) placed “accelerating 5G” as a top priority, the rollout will likely not happen as quickly as expected due to “…the likely lack of a range of affordable 5G handsets and attractive applications (both consumer and industrial),” said equity analyst Edison Lee in the report.The new report also updates recommendations on major 5G-related stocks including China Mobile, ZTE Corp., China Unicom, China Tower and Yangtze Optical FC (YOFC).
老虎证券赴美IPO最高募资9100万 小米盈透有意认购 – Sina FinanceWhat happened: Xiaomi-backed online trading platform Tiger Brokers plans to raise up to $91 million in its US initial public offering (IPO), issuing 13 million American Depository Shares (ADS) at $5 to $7 per share, according to the prospectus updated on Monday.The China-based online brokerage firm will launch the roadshow for its global offering this week, and is targeting end-March for its Nasdaq listing.Why it’s important: Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi holds 14.1% of UP Fintech Holding, which runs the Tiger Brokers platform, and Interactive Brokers Group, one of the largest American online brokerages, holds a 7.7% share.Both parties have expressed interest in increasing their holdings.Tiger Brokers aims to expand its global market share beyond that of its rival, Tencent-backed Futu Securities, which went public on Nasdaq on Friday.
Meituan-Dianping saw its losses more than double in the final quarter of 2018, with “new initiatives” – including its ride-hailing business and Mobike subsidiary – accounting for much of the deficit.The Beijing-based company also indicated that it will fully integrate Mobike into its own platform, after recent reports that the bike-sharing service would cease operations in some ex-China markets.The Chinese “super-app” hauled in US$2.95 billion in revenue and US$667 million in gross profit in Q4, representing a year-on-year increase of 89 percent and 33.7 percent, respectively, according to Q4 results released yesterday.Its FY 2018 revenue clocked in at US$9.71 billion, while gross profit for the year stood at US$2.25 billion, marking annual growth of 92.3 percent and 23.6 percent in each.Meituan’s core food delivery and “in-store, hotel, and travel” businesses both managed to turn a profit.Since 2017, Meituan has launched pilot ride-hailing services in Nanjing and Shanghai, looking to enter a market almost utterly dominated by Didi Chuxing.